Thursday, May 31, 2007

U.S. Men's Tennis & The Utah Jazz

On Wednesday, American men fell to 0-9 in the 2007 French Open, so the U.S.A. is completely unrepresented in the second round. The Utah Jazz fared better in the NBA playoffs, advancing to the third round. However, as hostile as Paris has been to male U.S. tennis players, San Antonio has been even worse to the Jazz. The Spurs advanced to the NBA finals last night, as Utah suffered its 19th consecutive defeat in San Antonio. While the tennis players try to forget Paris, the Jazz can’t help but remember the Alamo. Here’s a comparison of the U.S. men and Utah.

U.S. Men: Curse the name of Frenchman Roland Garros
Utah Jazz: Curse the name of Frenchman Tony Parker

U.S. Men: Had a tough week on center court
Utah Jazz: Had a tough week on the AT&T Center court

U.S. Men: Haven’t won a title in Paris since 1999
Utah Jazz: Haven’t won a game in San Antonio since 1999

U.S. Men: Too many balls hit the net
Utah Jazz: Not enough balls hit the net

U.S. Men: Argentina man beat Robby Ginepri
Utah Jazz: Beaten by Argentina’s Manu Ginobili

U.S. Men: Past greats included Pete Sampras
Utah Jazz: Past greats included Pete Maravich

U.S. Men: Want more attention from American sports fans
Utah Jazz: Want more attention from American sports fans

U.S. Men: Will wait another year to experience the second round
Utah Jazz: Made Tracy McGrady wait another year to experience the second round

U.S. Men: Michael Russell was eliminated by low-key superstar Roger Federer
Utah Jazz: Eliminated by low-key superstar Tim Duncan

U.S. Men: On clay courts, need more good men
Utah Jazz: At home court, need support of good Mormons

U.S. Men: Legendary John McEnroe never won the French Open
Utah Jazz: Legendary John Stockton never won the NBA title

U.S. Men: Won’t get to play Rafael Nadal
Utah Jazz: Rafael Araujo seldom gets to play

U.S. Men: In April, won a second-round Davis Cup series
Utah Jazz: In May, won a second-round series over Baron Davis

U.S. Men: Wish they could keep playing, like Venus & Serena Williams
Utah Jazz: Wish Deron Williams could keep playing

U.S. Men: Look to rebound from a hard spring
Utah Jazz: Look for rebounds from Matt Harpring

U.S. Men: Russia’s Igor Andreev took out 3rd-seeded Andy Roddick
Utah Jazz: 3rd-seeded Spurs took out Russia’s Andrei Kirilenko

U.S. Men: Long French Open title drought was once ended by Michael Chang
Utah Jazz: Long NBA title drought was twice extended by Michael Jordan

U.S. Men: Next round will not have James Blake
Utah Jazz: Next round will not have LeBron James in Salt Lake

U.S. Men: Score was often love-30
Utah Jazz: Carlos Boozer loves to score 30

U.S. Men: Two-time French Open champ was Courier
Utah Jazz: Two-time NBA MVP was Mailman

U.S. Men: Paris is more daunting than the hardcourt in New York
Utah Jazz: San Antonio is more daunting than the hardcourt in New York

U.S. Men: Less successful in France than Jerry Lewis
Utah Jazz: Successful in the NBA thanks to Jerry Sloan

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The MLB Sub-500

On Sunday, Dario Franchitti won the rain-shortened Indianapolis 500, which was called with 34 laps remaining. Falling short of 500 is an experience currently shared by 15 major league clubs. Life isn’t as glorious for them as Franchitti these days, and they won’t be getting post-game kisses from Ashley Judd. Here’s a quick look at the MLB Sub-500.

San Francisco Giants: 24-25. In Sunday’s loss to Colorado, Barry Bonds moved closer to the all-time record. His stolen base left him 895 behind Rickey Henderson.

Baltimore Orioles: 24-27. Yesterday, they routed Kansas City after Johns Hopkins edged Duke for the NCAA lacrosse title. So both Baltimore teams beat opponents who took last year off.

Colorado Rockies: 24-27. They’ve actually won six in a row, earning the coveted status of “hottest last place team in the majors.”

Florida Marlins: 24-27. Their weekend sweep by the Mets was capped by Julio Franco’s pinch-hit RBI single on Sunday. Florida is always accommodating to old people from New York.

Toronto Blue Jays: 23-27. “No Canadian champs since ‘93” is true in both hockey and baseball. If you want the drought to end, focus on the Senators.

Chicago Cubs: 22-27. At 2-12 in one-run games, they’ve been as effective in tight situations as Dr. Smith from Lost in Space.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 22-28. Before being shut out by Cincinnati on Monday, Pittsburgh scored 33 runs in the first three games of the series. I guess all Pirates were putting up big numbers over the weekend.

New York Yankees: 21-28. Roger Clemens will likely join the Yanks after Monday’s start for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He’ll still be pitching for a minor league club.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: 21-28. They’ve finally realized their longtime goal of being on par with the Yankees.

Houston Astros: 21-29. During their eight-game losing streak, the Astros have scored just 16 runs. Only Lindsay Lohan has had a tougher time getting home.

St. Louis Cardinals: 20-28. Following the lead of the Steelers, Hurricanes, and Heat, here’s another defending champ who won’t be winning any playoff games.

Washington Nationals: 21-30. They were off on Monday, so the national holiday was a holiday for the Nationals.

Cincinnati Reds: 19-33. Which Cincinnati performance has been worse: the Reds on the field, or the Bengals off the field?

Kansas City Royals: 19-33. The Royals are 9-19 at home. Looks like Trent Green isn’t the only one in KC who’d rather play somewhere else.

Texas Rangers: 18-33. Over the weekend, they were swept at home by the Red Sox, who headed to Boston after flourishing in Texas. Celtics fans wish the same were true of Kevin Durant.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame The Charlestown Chiefs for Gooning It Up

ESPN Classic viewers enjoy regular installments of the Top 5 Reasons You Can’t Blame… series, hosted by Brian Kenny. As noted in three of my previous columns, the series is overly focused on real-life sports figures such as Bill Buckner and Chris Webber. To address this issue, I expanded the approach to take a deeper look at the sports controversies surrounding fictional characters. Previously I chronicled the top 5 reasons you can’t blame Apollo Creed for losing to Rocky Balboa, Charlie Brown for his sports futility, and Crash Davis for being stuck in the minor leagues.

Today I will turn my focus to the Charlestown Chiefs. Featured in the 1977 film Slap Shot, the Chiefs were a minor league hockey laughingstock under player-coach Reggie Dunlop. Their constant losing was accompanied by ridicule from the few fans who watched them take the ice. However, their fortunes turned after adopting a vicious style of play. The Chiefs fought their way to a winning streak, sellout crowds, and ultimately the Federal League championship. However, hockey purists denounced their approach as being too violent and cheapening the skill of the game

A closer examination reveals that numerous factors beyond their control influenced the Chiefs to take the goon route. I may not change your mind about the Chiefs’ role in their actions, but at least I hope to provide material to make you think – assuming you haven’t had too many hockey-related concussions. Before I get to the top five reasons you can’t blame the Charlestown Chiefs for gooning it up, here are reasons that did not make the list – the “Best of the Rest”:

Slap Shot 2: Breaking The Ice. The Chiefs had no idea that they would inspire a much-ridiculed 2002 direct-to-DVD sequel starring Stephen Baldwin and Gary Busey. I haven’t seen it, and chances are you haven’t either. So let’s move on…

The AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs, coming off three consecutive 5-9 seasons, would finish 2-12 in 1977. So at the time, no one believed that a team called the Chiefs could beat up on anyone. Charlestown rose to the occasion to prove the doubters wrong. In the process, the team of misfit thugs became something never thought possible in Kansas City: a group of Chiefs that the Raiders would love.

Mill Closing: The closing of the mill made the financial outlook even bleaker for residents of Charlestown. But going to War Memorial Arena and seeing opposing players get their faces smashed provided some consolation. Fans who were losing their health care coverage could say, “At least I’m not THAT guy!”

Eddie Shore: Before the final game against the Syracuse Bulldogs, Dunlop tells his team to play “Old time hockey,” supposedly embracing a clean style. He repeatedly mentions Eddie Shore as a role model. In reality, Shore was a bruiser who piled up the penalty minutes and ended the career of Toronto Maple Leafs star Ace Bailey. So when the game deteriorates into a brawl, it really does honor the spirit of Shore. A parallel would be “old time basketball, like Bill Laimbeer.”

And now, the top five reasons you can’t blame the Charlestown Chiefs for gooning it up:

Reason #5: Philadelphia: The Chiefs could look to the City of Brotherly Love to see the benefits of fighting, both on the ice and on screen. The Flyers, known as the Broad Street Bullies, had recently won back-to-back Stanley Cup titles with a style to make Ogie Oglethorpe cringe in fear. Rocky was about to capture another prominent trophy as the Best Picture Oscar winner. Unlike today, that era’s sports landscape was far more receptive to fighting. And to championships in Philly.

Reason #4: Strip Tease. As previously noted, the Chiefs’ final game against Syracuse went haywire when the two goon-laden teams engaged in a full-scale brawl. The fisticuffs paused when Ned Braden, the one Chief who had balked at the thuggish style of play, skated around the ice while taking off his clothes. As a pretty boy with few scratches on him, Braden could get away with stripping instead of fighting. However, brawling was definitely the preferred option for most of the other Chiefs. No one wanted to see those guys skating around in just a jockstrap.

Reason #3: A Woman’s Touch. As professional hockey players, the Chiefs lived in a macho, testosterone-laden world. Homophobia was common, and no player wanted to be labeled as girly. However, the screenplay for Slap Shot and the book on which it was based were both written by Nancy Dowd. Also, the team’s owner was eventually revealed to be Kathryn Walker. So these he-men were actually created and owned by women. The players even had to participate in fashion shows. Their need to fight was a natural way of overcompensating and proving that they weren’t controlled by “a bunch of broads.”

Reason #2: The Hanson Brothers. The savage trio wound up as the breakout stars of the movie. Noticing the success of their goon tactics, Dunlop encouraged the rest of the team to follow suit. While their Artest-like dash into the stands was over the line, the Hansons did provide inspiration for geeks everywhere. They showed that nerdy-looking dudes in glasses could still be tough guys. Also, they might have had a sense that 20 years later, “Hanson Brothers” would make most people think of “MMMBop.” If so, their rage was completely understandable.

Still not convinced? There’s just one reason left, and it belongs to a screen legend who called it a career this week.

Reason #1: Hello… Newman. When Slap Shot was released in 1977, Paul Newman was a five-time Academy Award nominee, but he had not yet received an Oscar. Outwardly it may not have mattered to the man who portrayed Dunlop, but the frustration must have been building. At this point, the guy needed to hit some people. He couldn’t take it out on the Academy, so the Hyannisport Presidents had to bear the brunt of his aggression. Don’t be surprised if Kate Winslet takes the same approach and delivers hits for the Reading Royals. Eventually, Newman did receive three Oscars – Best Actor for The Color of Money, as well as honorary and humanitarian awards. On his behalf, Ned Braden accepted the trophies in a jockstrap.

So there you have it. Maybe I’ve changed your mind about the Charlestown Chiefs, and maybe I haven’t. But I hope I’ve at least given you some new perspectives to consider. Now let’s clear the ice for the Zamboni.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Anaheim Haunts Detroit Sports Tuesday Night

Tuesday night in Secaucus, New Jersey, the Portland Trail Blazers emerged from the NBA Draft Lottery with the #1 selection. Blazer fans are surely ecstatic at the prospect of Greg Oden or Kevin Durant suiting up at the Rose Garden Arena. Sports fans in Detroit would point to another reason why their counterparts in Portland could celebrate on Tuesday. Anaheim couldn’t ruin their night.

Orange County did a number on the Motor City last night. Most significantly, the Anaheim Ducks downed the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 to capture the NHL Western Conference finals in six games. Due in large part to the goaltending of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Hockeytown was no match for Mickeytown. In a bitter twist for the automotive capital of the U.S., its team was eliminated in the Honda Center. The Ducks’ Honda connection does seem appropriate, since they’re getting more mileage than their competition from Detroit.

Now instead of the Red Wings capturing their 11th Stanley Cup title, either Anaheim or the Ottawa Senators will win their first. The Ducks began their run to the finals with a 4-1 opening round win over Minnesota. Therefore, their mascot Wild Wing contains the nicknames of two of their playoff victims. The then-Mighty Ducks also eliminated the Wild and the Wings on their way to the 2003 Stanley Cup finals, which they lost to New Jersey in seven games. Disney has since sold the team, but “It’s a small world” will accurately describe the U.S. television ratings for these finals.

Also last night, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim held off the Detroit Tigers 6-3. In a potential playoff preview, the Angels increased their AL West lead to 5 ½ games, while the Tigers remained ½ game behind Cleveland in the Central. Orlando Cabrera had a home run and three RBI, and his leaping catch snuffed out a ninth-inning rally for Jim Leyland’s club. Cabrera’s hang time was much better suited to Comerica Park than the Palace of Auburn Hills. In the NBA, you don’t see Orlando winning in Detroit.

The series continues with games tonight and tomorrow afternoon at Comerica. If the Angels continue the Anaheim-over-Detroit trend, the Cleveland Cavaliers will surely adjust accordingly for Thursday’s game 2 against the Pistons at the Palace. The visitors would likely take the court as the Anaheim Cavaliers. Also, in addition to getting to the foul line, LeBron James would need to make another adjustment to enhance his team’s chances for victory. You could expect him to replace his headband with a pair of mouse ears.

Obviously, Tuesday did not feature any Detroit-Anaheim matchups on the gridiron. The NFL season does not kick off for another 3 ½ months. Plus, Anaheim has been out of the league since the Rams bolted for St. Louis in 1995. Detroit has also been without an NFL franchise since the Lions hired Matt Millen.

Perhaps the Tigers will rebound tonight against 5-0 Bartolo Colon. Even if that happens, do not expect the Detroit fans to warm up to Anaheim anytime soon. Last night, Motown fans had a new nickname in mind for the home of Disneyland. To them, Anaheim was the crappiest place on Earth.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Fun Facts About The Horse Racing & Batting Triple Crowns

Saturday at Pimlico Race Track, Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense was nosed out by Curlin in the Preakness Stakes. Therefore, 1978’s Affirmed will remain the most recent triple crown horse for at least another year. Major league hitters have an even longer triple crown drought, with Carl Yastrzemski last accomplishing the feat in 1967. In honor of these rare achievements, here are some fun facts about the horse racing and batting triple crowns.

1937 was the only year in which horse racing (War Admiral) and baseball (Joe Medwick) each had a triple crown winner. The following year, both lost a match race to Seabiscuit.

Medwick was nicknamed Ducky, representing the only time a triple crown was won by a Pretty In Pink character.

1946 and 1948 winners Assault and Citation had nothing to do with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Baseball winners Lou Gehrig and Ty Cobb had a connection to their thoroughbred counterparts. Gehrig was called the Iron Horse, and Cobb was known as a horse’s ass.

Similarly, 1935 winner Omaha reminds baseball fans of the College World Series. Instead of a whip, jockey Willie Saunders used an aluminum bat down the stretch.

Omaha was sired by 1930 winner Gallant Fox. Omaha’s offspring, facing two generations of triple crown pressure, all wound up in rehab.

Gallant Fox was also the cousin of 1933 winner Jimmy Foxx.

Cobb won his triple crown in 1909 with 9 home runs. Back then, the American League had less power than a sitcom husband.

Like baseball, triple crown races before 1947 only allowed white horses.

Due to skipping the Kentucky Derby, the legendary Man ‘O War was not a triple crown winner. He was suspended from the race by David Stern.

Seattle Slew was the 1977 winner. Adhering to the usual Seattle stereotypes, away from the track he hung out in coffeehouses and played in a grunge band.

A notable difference between triple crown winners: They say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” No one ever said that about Mickey Mantle.

A Phillie has won the triple crown (Chuck Klein), but no filly has done so. The Phillies also have one more World Series title than the fillies.

In 1933, two Philadelphia players (Klein of the Phillies and Foxx of the A’s) won the triple crown. They still got ripped on WIP.

1919 winner Sir Barton was not actually knighted until 1922.

In horse racing, the term triple crown originated because a rapper needed something to rhyme with Churchill Downs.

1973 winner Secretariat still holds the race records in the Derby and Belmont. Unlike baseball records, his marks haven’t been toppled by his steroid-injected successors.

Ted Williams won the 1942 and 1947 American League triple crowns, yet wasn’t named MVP in either season. One of those awards went to Dirk Nowitzki.

Like Williams, jockey Eddie Arcaro won two triple crowns in the 1940s. No word on what his frozen head is up to these days.

No batters won the triples crown in their triple crown seasons. That would just be too mind-blowing.

Johnny Longden, jockey of 1943 winner Count Fleet, was supposed to be on the Titanic. He avoided disaster, unlike Yastrzemski on the ’78 Red Sox.

In his first season after being traded by Cincinnati, Frank Robinson won the 1966 triple crown. Twelve years later, the Reds tried to even the score by offering Johnny Bench for Affirmed.

Rogers Hornsby won the National League triple crown in 1922 and 1925. If his first name hadn’t been plural, he only would have won once.

All triple crown horses were three years old, but no triple crown batters were. Generally speaking, power-hitting three-year-olds don’t hit for average.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

NBA Playoffs & The Supreme Court

In recent days, the topic of justice has been hotly debated concerning the NBA playoffs. Contenders are competing to reign supreme on the court, but the judgments of David Stern and Stu Jackson cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court. Still, the robed ones in Washington have much in common with the postseason hoopsters. As noted below, each Supreme Court justice has an NBA counterpart who is still alive in the playoffs.


John Roberts: Jason Kidd.
Roberts is the youngest current member of the High Court. So like the Nets, the Court is led by the Kid(d).


John Paul Stevens: Jerry Sloan.
Both guys used to work in Chicago and have been in their current job for a long time.

Antonin Scalia: Richard Hamilton. The conservative Scalia is an admirer of Alexander Hamilton. As Rip learned in Games 4 and 5, bad things happen to Hamiltons when their opponents shoot better.

Anthony Kennedy: LeBron James. Kennedy often represents the swing vote. LeBron’s a pretty good swingman too.

David Souter: Ben Gordon. New Hampshire’s David is a Souter who came from New England. UConn’s Ben is a shooter who came from New England.

Clarence Thomas: Tim Duncan. Thomas doesn’t speak much during oral arguments, so both guys have a quiet court presence.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Steve Nash. Like the up-tempo Suns point guard, Ginsburg is rarely described as conservative.

Stephen Breyer: Carlos Boozer. The Clinton appointee and the Utah Jazz forward both like to go to the left.

Samuel Alito: Chris Webber. Like Detroit native Webber, Alito is a recent addition to the team he’s always wanted to play for.


Sandra Day O’Connor: Amare Stoudemire.
Both received lots of attention when they left the bench.

Monday, May 14, 2007

CW To Air "Artis Gilmore Girls" This Fall

As is the case every May, some long-running network television shows are saying goodbye this month. One such series is Gilmore Girls, whose finale airs this Tuesday night. However, the CW plans a similar-themed replacement this fall. The network will add Artis Gilmore Girls to the primetime schedule.

The new dramedy will also focus on the close-knit relationship between single mother Lorelai and her daughter Rory. In honor of former NBA and ABA center Artis Gilmore, the mother and daughter will each sport an afro and mutton chop sideburns. Once again, the roles will be played by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel, assuming they each grow to be 7’2” over the summer.

In addition to paying tribute to an All-Star basketball player from the 70s and 80s, the show will mirror the style of its predecessor. Therefore, both Artis Gilmore girls will crash the boards while dispensing lightning-fast witty banter. Every time they block a shot, they’ll make a clever pop culture reference. Additionally, Lorelai will endure a strained relationship with her upper-crust mother, who wants her daughter to be more like Kareem Abdul-Jabaar.

The setting of Stars Hollow will be slightly changed to All-Stars Hollow. The name recognizes the five ABA All-Star and six NBA All-Star Games for Artis during his career. Once again, the town will be filled with quirky characters – just like the ABA. Rory’s best friend will be an indie music enthusiast who frequently dunks a red, white, and blue basketball.

The CW hopes to retain fans of Gilmore Girls while adding viewers who considered it too much of a “chick show.” Artis Gilmore Girls will still feature plenty of mother-daughter bonding at the local diner. Since those discussions involve both food and sarcasm, Lorelai and Rory will often be joined by Charles Barkley. Also, the girls’ romantic travails will be analyzed not only by themselves, but in the studio by Stephen A. Smith.

The new series is sure to boost Artis Gilmore’s profile. Despite a distinguished career with the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels and NBA’s Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs, and Boston Celtics, he has not been elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Time has left him overshadowed by the marquee players of his era, but getting his name out there again will surely help his chances to get to Springfield. If there’s one thing that boosts your Basketball Hall of Fame credentials, it’s support from the 18-to-34 year-old female demographic.

Artis Gilmore Girls could be part of a trend this fall. Tonight, CBS bids farewell to The King of Queens after nine seasons on the air. Don’t be surprised if it gets replaced by The Bernard King of Queens.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Dale Jr. To Replace Blair As Prime Minister

Yesterday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt Jr. made announcements regarding upcoming changes in their lives. Blair will end his 10-year term as Prime Minister, while Dale Jr. will terminate his relationship with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Today it was revealed that those two developments are related. Sources within Parliament have confirmed that Little E will take over for Blair as British Prime Minister.

The development sent shock waves throughout the United Kingdom. It had been assumed that Blair’s successor would be named according to the typical custom. In that scenario, as the majority party in the House of Commons, the Labour Party would choose the new Prime Minister from within its ranks. However, Chevrolet recently obtained the rights to be the exclusive corporate sponsor of Parliament. Under the terms of the contract, Chevy gets to choose the Prime Minister, so Dale Jr. was a natural choice. The company plans to launch an ad campaign, showing images such as Buckingham Palace, Stonehenge, and the White Cliffs of Dover, accompanied with the message, “Now THIS is our country!”

Reaction in London has been overwhelmingly negative. Blair’s popularity plummeted as he was widely viewed as being too eager to please the United States. Now his replacement will be an actual American. Given their rampant anti-Bush sentiments, Brits were infuriated to hear that Dale Jr. has raced in the Busch Series. Also, they expect their politicians to wear a suit and tie – not a red Budweiser uniform.

Rather than June 27, as originally reported, Blair will turn over his position to Earnhardt after the end of the Nextel Cup season. Sure to be disappointed is treasury chief Gordon Brown, who had been expected to be the next Prime Minister. Having a rival named Gordon is nothing new for Junior. In fact, during Brown’s most recent address to the House, Dale’s fans pelted him with beer cans.

Ironically, Little E will be headed to the UK because Dale Earnhardt Inc. was far from a United Kingdom. Animosity between Junior and his stepmother, DEI owner Teresa Earnhardt, had reached the point of no return. Hopefully his relationship with Queen Elizabeth II will be much smoother. Junior does have an understanding of royal figures, as his legendary father was the equal of The King, Richard Petty. Likewise, Elizabeth would fit in with the NASCAR culture. Last week she attended the Kentucky Derby, so she enjoys watching races with tens of thousands of drunken fans. In addition, Elizabeth has acknowledged that she would like to change her title from “Queen” to “England’s Crew Chief.”

Numerous changes are expected when Dale Jr. takes over for Blair. In honor of his father, the famous Prime Minister address of 10 Downing Street will likely be changed to 3 Victory Lane. Parliamentary proceedings at the Palace of Westminster are expected to see a huge increase in tailgating. Debate on issues will begin on the green flag and finish on the checkered flag. A caution flag will be in effect whenever a House member crashes into a wall during debate.

Political observers are eager to see how Earnhardt’s foreign policy evolves. Iraq is a primary concern, with pundits asking, “Where is Little E on the Middle East?” They will also want to know his expertise on foreign trade – not just trading paint. Dale Jr. does have experience in dealing with France, the ruling family of NASCAR. Additionally, the London Olympics are still five years away, but the new Prime Minister is expected to lobby the International Olympic Committee to make stock car racing an Olympic sport.

Junior’s upcoming term continues the intermingling of the USA and UK sports worlds. Manchester United is now principally owned by an American, Malcolm Glazer. British soccer icon David Beckham will soon be suiting up for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Even the Prime Minister position has previously been involved with American sports, as Margaret Thatcher spent a season at power forward for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Before long, Dale Jr.’s focus will shift from racing Tony Stewart to replacing Tony Blair. When that happens, Parliament will get to experience history. Little E will meet Big Ben.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Reds Implement No-Oswalt Policy At Ballpark

With 81 home dates a season, major league ballclubs must always be sensitive to the fan experience at games. High ticket prices, parking lot gridlock, obnoxious drunks, and mediocre baseball can all be major turn-offs for potential spectators. Today the Cincinnati Reds took a step to make the home fans’ experience at Great American Ball Park more enjoyable. The venue now has an official No-Oswalt policy.

The policy was implemented after the Reds’ 5-4 loss to the Houston Astros Monday night. Roy Oswalt earned the victory after allowing two runs over seven innings. The win improved Oswalt’s lifetime record against Cincinnati to an amazing 19-1. No one has been tougher on Reds since the McCarthy hearings.

With that track record in mind, management decided that Oswalt will now be prohibited from entering Great American Ball Park. Owner Robert Castellini explained, “We’re trying to promote a fan-friendly experience for the home fans. How fan-friendly can it be if their team has no shot in hell of winning?” Oswalt joins other items you won’t see at the ballpark, such as glass bottles, cans, and a quality bullpen.

General Manager Wayne Krivsky also cited safety concerns. “There’s been a lot of talk about alcohol in the clubhouse lately. Well, facing Oswalt drives our players to drink!” The Reds’ clubhouse does appear to be a safer place these days, especially since Lou Piniella and Rob Dibble are no longer there together. Cincinnati plans to further emphasize safety by hiring a new team physician, a position formerly held by Dr. Johnny Fever. As manager Jerry Narron remarked, “Safety is always a concern for us. Ken Griffey, Jr. is on our team.”

The Astros are expected to appeal the decision to major league baseball. However, the issue does not appear to be urgent for commissioner Bud Selig. After this series, Houston does not visit Cincinnati again until late September. Reportedly, Selig is assuming that the Astros ace will be a Yankee by then.

If the policy does get overturned, the Reds have a backup plan for future Oswalt starts. Noting that he is winless with a 6.41 ERA in five career starts versus Atlanta, Cincinnati would wear Braves uniforms and display a banner proclaiming “Welcome To Turner Field!”. Before things even get to that point, they plan to employ a proven strategy for getting someone banned from the ballpark in Cincinnati. They’ll tell Selig that Oswalt bet on baseball.

On the field, the Reds continue to struggle at 14-18. However, team officials remain proud of their home venue. The No-Oswalt policy is a small step to reward the home fans at Great American Ball Park. Management realizes that the Cincinnati fans have enough to worry about when they go to the ballpark. After all, sometimes Bengals are in the stands.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Howards' End

The legendary Howard Cosell was known for “telling it like it is.” If he were alive today, Cosell would have some harsh words regarding his namesakes in the American sports world. Right now, it’s a tough time to be a Howard.

That statement has been particularly true in the NBA playoffs. The first team eliminated was the Orlando Magic, led by Dwight Howard. Orlando was given little chance against the top-seeded Detroit Pistons, but Magic fans had to be disappointed in getting swept. While Howard provides hope for the future, the franchise has not won a playoff series since Shaquille O’Neal left for Los Angeles in 1996. Besides Shaq’s departure, the drought most likely resulted because God is punishing Orlando for pushing boy bands onto the world.

Apparently, the secret to victory by a #8 seed was to have a Howard in the opponent’s starting lineup. Even with Josh Howard averaging over 20 points, the Dallas Mavericks were stunned by the Golden State Warriors in six games. On the bright side for Howard, the name most associated with this loss was a bit more German-sounding. Although he will almost certainly win the MVP award, Dirk Nowitzki will face ongoing “can’t win the big one” scrutiny. After his 2-for-13 performance in Game 6, MVP stands for “Making Vacation Plans.”

The Mavericks weren’t the only Texas team to be undone by the Howard affliction. Despite playing at home for game 7, the Houston Rockets fell 103-99 to the Utah Jazz, ending the season of Juwan Howard. The headlines are about Tracy McGrady’s playoff defeats, but Juwan’s demise means a clean sweep of the NBA Howards. League officials are fortunate that David Stern is in charge, rather than Howard Stern.

The Howard effect is not limited to the basketball court. 2006 National League MVP Ryan Howard is currently batting .198 as his Philadelphia Phillies head into tonight’s series-ender with the San Francisco Giants. Last year he slugged 58 home runs, but now he’s living below the Mendoza Line. His cold stretch has led to something unbelievable in San Francisco this weekend. He’s a huge, left-handed home run champ, but no one thinks he’s on steroids.

Considering the struggles of Howards, you might think the Detroit Red Wings tempted fate by recalling goaltender Jimmy Howard on Thursday. However, the Red Wings already have future Hall of Famer Dominik Hašek in net, backed up by Chris Osgood. Hašek is a two-time Hart Trophy winner as the league MVP. Still, he has never been more valuable than he is now, because his presence keeps a Howard out of action.

NFL teams surely have taken note of the Howard effect. In last week’s draft, not one player named Howard was chosen throughout the seven rounds. Even Green Bay was scared, despite capturing Super Bowl XXXI thanks to Desmond Howard. Additionally, just to be safe, no team drafted a player from Howard University. If Brady Quinn had been named Brady Howard, he might still be sitting in Radio City Music Hall.

The Howard struggles do not seem to be in effect outside the American sports world. Goaltender Tim Howard was victorious Saturday, as his Everton club defeated Portsmouth 3-0 in an important English Premier League match. Also, Spider-Man 3 is on its way to a runaway box office triumph, despite the presence of Bryce Dallas Howard. In addition to nullifying the Howard effect, the film provides the weekend’s only opportunity to put “triumph” and “Dallas” in the same sentence.

As for the Howards in American sports, perhaps Ryan can soon turn things around. As another Howard (Jones) once sang, “Things can only get better.” If they don’t soon, Ryan Howard may echo Network character Howard Beale: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Kentucky Derby Names & Their Other Sports Meanings

Yesterday in Louisville, the draw was held to determine starting positions for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. 20 horses are scheduled to compete in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs. Beyond horse racing, each of the 20 names relates to the sports world in some other way. Here’s a rundown, in order of post position.

1. Sedgefield: Why Sedge will win a Gold Glove, according to Tarzan.

2. Curlin: An ice-oriented sport the Chicago Black Hawks might want to try, since hockey hasn’t worked out.

3. Zanjero: What Harry Caray would call Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano.

4. Storm in May: Something the Seattle Mariners do not want to see, after a postponement-filled April.

5. Imawildandcrazyguy: The last thing an NFL player wants to say to hard-line commissioner Roger Goodell.

6. Cowtown Cat: Phil Jackson’s nickname for Sacramento guard and former Arizona Wildcat Mike Bibby.

7. Street Sense: The logic that convinces Oakland closer Huston to walk Vladimir Guerrero with first base open.

8. Hard Spun: A NASCAR driver’s position, just after hitting the wall.

9. Liquidity: What makes you sweat, according to Yogi Berra.

10. Teuflesberg: German for “Devil’s Mountain,” representing the 3-1 deficit faced by New Jersey against Ottawa.

11. Bwana Bull: Nickname for actor Eric Bana, after he joins the Chicago Bulls and adds a “W” to his name to show his commitment to winning.

12. Nobiz Like Showbiz: Weber State business school course taught by Harold “The Show” Arceneaux.

13. Sam P.: A 1982 teammate of Michael J. and James W. in the NCAA championship showdown against Patrick E. and Sleepy F.

14. Scat Daddy: Shaquille O’Neal’s new nickname, after Shaq Daddy is traded to the Jazz.

15. Tiago: Usually seen as “T Iago” – what referee Joey Crawford would do in a production of Othello.

16. Circular Quay: Obscure British tennis player Cular Quay, who hopes to celebrate knighthood by ending the host country’s drought at Wimbledon. I’ll give you a minute on this one.

And DOWN the stretch they come!!!

17. Stormello: The Carmelo Anthony-inspired mascot of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm.

18. Any Given Saturday: A time of embarrassment for Duke football players.

19. Dominican: Reminiscent of Super Bowl standout Dominic Rhodes.

20. Great Hunter: What I’ll call Torii if he sends some Dom Perignon my way.